The Buffs defeated the higher ranked Harvard Crimson 70-62 on Sunday afternoon in a thriller, after rallying from a 12-point deficit at the half to outscore them 40-20 in the second half.
"No one wants to lose a game, especially at home. Today we had a great support from our fans and everything, and our team just wanted to win it for them and win it for each other," sophomore guard/forward Xavier Johnson said.
Junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie led the Buffs with 17 points, four rebounds, and two assists. Three more Buffs scored in double digits, with Askia Booker and Josh Scott both contributing 12 points and Xavier Johnson adding 11 to the total.
In the first half, the Buffs were plagued with poor shooting and worse defense. They shot 42.3% from the field (11 for 26) and 40% from the three-point range (4 for 10), but their free throw percentage helped their offensive struggles (6 for 9, 66.7%).
On the other side of the ball, they allowed Harvard to shoot 53.6% from the field (15 for 28), 50% from behind the arc (6 for 12), and 66.7% from the foul line (6 for 9).
Coming out of the half, the Buffs lit the fire that kept them going strong on offense throughout the remainder of the game, eventually outscoring the Crimson 40 to 20. They improved their shooting to 48.1% from the field (13 for 27), 44.4% from the three-point range (4 for 9), and 76.9% from the foul line (10 for 13) in the second half alone.
In addition to that, sophomore forward Josh Scott and freshman forward Wesley Gordon played a key role in containing the Crimson on offense. After grabbing a combined 16 rebounds in the second and helping the Buffs increase their overall pressure, the Crimson's shooting percentages dropped dramatically.
"I think what changed was our defensive talking," Scott said. "We lopped them down, literally, in that second half, so I think that was the big change. They're a good team, and for us to do what we did to them in the second half was pretty impressive."
In the second half, Harvard only managed to shoot 23.5% from the field (8 for 34), 9.1% from behind the arc (1 for 11), and 75% from the free throw line (3 for 4).
Harvard started the game with a quick two-point jumper from Kyle Casey after the first ten seconds of play, but the Buffs responded quickly with a three-point shot from sophomore guard/forward Xavier Johnson. That was Colorado's last lead of the half (3-2).
Nearly a minute and a half later, Casey made a three-point jumper of his own to put the Crimson back on top (3-5). They kept the momentum on their side, outscoring the Buffs 11 to 2 over the next four minutes. With 14:46 left on the clock, Harvard led 16-5.
The Buffs tried to kick it into gear to overcome the deficit, but only managed to get within three points off of a layup from Tre'Shaun Fletcher with nine minutes left of play (18-21). That was the closest they would get for the remainder of the half.
In the final five minutes leading into halftime, the Crimson had acquired two separate 13-point leads on the Buffs. The first came with 4:54 left on the clock, when Brandyn Curry sunk a three-point jumper to put Harvard up 37-24. The second came nearly a minute later after both teams each sunk a triple (40-27).
By the end of the first, the Crimson held a 12-point edge over the Buffs, 30-42.
The second half started out exactly like the first with a quick two-point shot from Kyle Casey in the first 45 seconds. After that, Harvard went cold. They didn't score at all for the next five minutes, so the Buffs took advantage. They went on a nine-point scoring streak and closed the gap to five with 15:49 left on the clock (39-44).
Siyani Chambers ended the Crimson's dry spell nearly a minute later with a layup (39-46), but the Buffs weren't ready to turn over just yet. They kept the score close for the next nine minutes until they took over for the second time in the entire game.
Johnson hit a huge three with five minutes left, giving the Buffs their second and final lead of the game (53-52). Throughout the rest of the game, the Buffs stunned the Crimson by outscoring them 17 to 10, pulling out a major victory of 70 - 62.
"I think that the thing that is so satisfying about this win today is how we got it and the team that we got it against," head coach Tad Boyle said. "It wasn't easy for us, but our guys found a way."
The Buffs return to the court this Saturday, Nov 30 at Air Force, and will tip off against the Falcons at 2:00 p.m.